A Weekend In & Around Zagreb
Zagreb makes a great base of operations for exploring Inland Croatia. Take a hike in the forest of Mount Medvednica (the “Bear Mountain”), book a tour or drive to Plitvice National Park, or head north of the city to castle country. The 3-day itinerary that follows may be short in duration, but it’s long on discovery.
Day 1: Mount Medvednica
You don’t need a car or an organized tour to visit Sljeme, the highest peak in the Zagrebačka highlands, or to poke around Medvedgrad, a 13th-century castle 4km (2 1/2 miles) south of Sljeme. You can catch the no. 14 tram at Trg Jelačić in Zagreb, ride it to the end of the line at Mihaljevac, and then transfer to the bus to the Tomislavov Dom hotel on Sljeme. (Note that the old cable car is no longer functioning.) From Tomislavov Dom, a network of marked trails lead through the surrounding woodland, one running straight to medieval Medvedgrad. Along the way, there are plenty of allocated spots for picnicking, with wooden tables and benches, so you can bring your own packed lunch. Note: If you drive, be aware that the road up to Sljeme is one way up and one way down; there is another road that leads to the backside of the mountain, where the Zagorje region begins. You’ll have plenty of time when you get back to Zagreb to stroll Tkalčićeva Street and have an upscale dinner at Dubravkin Put to celebrate your achievements.
Day 2: Plitvice National Park
Plitvice (Plitvička Jezera; www.np-plitvicka-jezera.hr) is second only to the Adriatic coast when it comes to tourist visits in Croatia. Once you get here, you can choose among sightseeing loops that take between 2 and 8 hours to complete and vary in difficulty. The park itself comprises 16 lakes, countless waterfalls, and a wide array of flora and fauna. Hiking is the usual way to see everything, but Plitvice also uses environmentally friendly hiker assists like small ferries and electric buses to move people through the park, which is open from 7am to 7pm daily in summer (shorter hours in the other seasons). Park entry in peak season (July–Aug) costs 185kn and includes a map on the back of your ticket. Get there independently by bus, or on an organized day trip, which you can book through numerous tourist agencies or at most large hotels in Zagreb. You also can rent a car and drive there. The trip from Zagreb takes about 2 hours each way. Tip: If you drive, you can stop for authentic Lička cuisine at Restoran Degenija, in the village of Drežničko Selište, 5km (3 miles) north of the park.
Day 3: Castle Country
The Zagorje region northwest of Zagreb is Hansel and Gretel country. In a single day you can visit Kumrovec and the open-air ethno museum that was Josip Broz Tito’s birthplace, investigate the imposing 12th-century Veliki Tabor Castle and its resident ghost, and have lunch at Grešna Gorica, a homey restaurant that appears to have been plopped down in the middle of a farmyard. Daily buses run from Zagreb to Kumrovec, but if you want to also see Veliki Tabor and anything else, you can book a tour at the Zagreb Tourist Bureau or rent a car and set your own course. This is a day trip that can be either a half- or full-day adventure. To pack a tighter schedule, you can continue a little further north and include the fairy-tale white hilltop castle of Trackošćan or the Baroque town of Varaždin.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.